Audi claimed victory in last weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours in a race marred by tragedy. The #2 car of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval took the chequered flag after claiming pole position as part of a Audi front row lock-out. However, the winning car didn't have it all its own way.
The race began in slippery conditions following a shower before the start, and the #1 Audi of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler took the lead. The OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier Hansson led the LMP2 class after starting from pole while Stefan Mucke, Darren Turner and Peter Dumbreck led the GTE Pro class in the Aston Martin Vantage.
However, just three laps into the race Danish GTE Am Aston Martin driver Allan Simonsen hit the crash barriers at Tertre Rouge. He was taken to the medical centre, but died from his injuries. The accident was the first fatality at Le Mans since 1997.
Following a lengthy period under the safety car, Audi opened up a decisive advantage over Toyota. Seven hours in, the lead #1 Audi lost 12 laps as a crank sensor was repaired. The lead went to to the #2 Audi. Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez took the lead in LMP2 Morgan-Nissan while Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Patrick Long led the GTE Am class in the Dempsey Del Piero-Proton Porsche 911.
By the 16th hour of the race, the #2 Audi was in command with a lap in hand over its nearest challenger, the #8 Toyota, and the Morgan-Nissans were running first and second in LMP2. Nineteen hours in, Frederic Makowiecki crashed his GTE Pro Aston Martin at the first Mulsanne chicane, handing the lead to the #92 works 911.
In total there were 12 periods under the safety car, totalling five and a half hours - more than any other time in the race’s history.
After 348 laps, the #2 Audi of McNish, Duval and Kristensen took victory by a lap from Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin’s Toyota, with the #3 Audi of Marc Gene, Lucas Di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis coming home in third. The LMP2 class was won by Baguette, Plowman and Gonzalez for OAK Racing, while the GTE Pro class ended with the Porsche of Dumas, Lieb and Lietz edging out Aston Martin. Porsche completed a GTE double with a win in the GTE Am class with Raymond Narac, Christophe Bourret and Jean-Karl Vernay.